THE ERE scandal has taken a high profile turn with the investigating judge Mercedes Ayala demanding that the former premiers of Andalucia Jose Antonio Grinan and Manuel Chaves should be named as suspects in her investigation.
Judge Mercedes Ayala indicated that there were grounds for Grinan and Chaves to be formally implicated in her probe into alleged fraud committed in a fund set up with public money to help struggling companies to lay off workers.
As elected holders of public office, Grinan and Chaves both enjoy parliamentary immunity and it would be up to the Supreme Court to initiate proceedings against them if they declined to forego that immunity.
Judge Ayala also produced a list of five former commissioners in the Andalusian government, who are also entitled to parliamentary immunity. They were Carmen Martinez Aguayo (former head of the treasury), Antonio Avila (former head of finance), Francisco Vallejo (former head of innovation), Jose Antonio Viera (former head of employment) and Manuel Recio (former head of employment).
Judge Alaya issued the court order at the same time that the new Andalusian president, Susana Diaz, was overseeing the swearing in of her new regional councilors. In an interview in El Pais Daiz comemented “Corruption embarrasses me, no matter what you call it — ERE, Gurtel or Barcenas. Two years ago, when I was secretary of the PSOE in Andalusia, I apologized for the ERE case because it caused me pain and I was embarrassed by it”.
The judicial sources said the anti-corruption prosecutor has decided to question the writ because the arguments it uses are not well founded and could leave those affected defenseless.
The writ issued by Judge Ayala’s investigation estimates the extent of the alleged fraud committed over the course of a decade at €136 million euros. Grinan and his predecessor Chaves were in office when the alleged fraud took place. Chaves commented last week that he felt ‘defenseless’ and that he thought the judge’s order ‘gratuitous and unnecessary’.